Whip-smart pacing and breathless photography mask the silliness of this Jason Statham actioner.
With his fingers (or should that be fists?) in seemingly innumerable action-packed pies, Jason Statham has become a real-life incarnation of Adam Buxton’s Furious Andrew, the snarling one-man army forever pushed too far by baddies who are clearly unaware of the consequences of 'fucking' with him.
This Léon-meets-Ultimate Cagefighter chase thriller sticks to the boilerplate, and is none the worse for it. Statham’s Luke Wright crosses the Russian mob, gets widowed and prepares to chuck himself under a train. He then finds a cause to live for in the shape of a 10-year- old Chinese maths genius.
Mei, too, is on the wrong side of the lawless. As a computer-noggined wünderkid, she has been trafficked from China to NYC to serve as a walking logbook for the Triads’ nefarious protection racket: the ultimate paperless office. But Luke’s very persecutors, the Ruskies, are wise to her value and determined to wring her dry.
With an entire corrupt police precinct also taking an interest, who can assist Mei in her daring escape? How about that unshaven drunk bloke dressed like a plasterer, weeping and teetering at the edge of the subway platform? He looks a good bet. That the set-up is vacuum-packed into the first 10 minutes should provide a clue as to the preoccupation of the remaining 100 left over.
Namely, the dismantling of cars, hotels, restaurants and human faces in a thousand-mile- an-hour whirlwind of fists, boots and hot lead. It’s such a breathless ride from one set-piece to the next that there’s barely time to admire the stylish camerawork that frames the carnage so elegantly. The total sensory overload offsets dialogue that mostly feels culled from a hundred tough-guy also-rans.
Fortunately, Statham has a way with a one-liner that, at its best, recalls vintage-era Bruce Willis. As a bona fide global action star, he is the surprise Merit graduate of the Lock, Stock class, with a screen presence that teeters on the right side of knowingness. Statham probably does so little press because he can’t trust himself not to blurt, "I am a world-famous movie star. Fackin’ ridicklious!" But of course, it isn’t ridiculous. As the furrow-browed clobber titan shows here, he can pull off ludicrous dialogue and ferocious butt-kicking with more aplomb than most,
aand without the sphincter-pursing smugness that scuppers the likes of Arnie and Sly. In the underplayed on-the-run relationship between Mei and Luke, Statham is less assured (although Catherine Chan is impressively grave as the preternaturally aged Mei), but that’s not really what we’re here for, is it?
Cars chase, jaws bust, bullets fly and windows burst in slow-mo crystal showers. If you want a movie to change your life, try Bresson – but be warned: you won’t get a perfectly-staged 30-man chop-socky tear-up in Au Hasard Balthazar.
Was Transporter that sci-fi film?
Whip-smart pacing and breathless photography mask the silliness admirably.
Only half as dumb as it kids on, Safe is still a cut above the average actioner.